Gerald Haigh begins a three-part series on primary assemblies by looking at values

Assembly is a key event in primary school life. In most primaries it is possible to gather the whole community of children and staff together in one place. Quite often – weekly in many schools – it is also possible to include a number of parents and other community friends. This presents the school’s leadership with the opportunity to set out and reinforce, every working day, the school’s preferred values. It is important to consider the role of the person taking assembly and to ensure that sufficient preparation takes place.

We begin this three-part series begins by looking at values. Part two focuses on the role of the assembly leader and the final part considers preparation.

Assembly reinforces the school’s values by:

Telling illustrative stories and anecdotes.
Stories are a traditional and enduring ingredient of primary school assembly. Primary Assembly File stories continually emphasise generosity, support for others, inclusion, the importance of family – the values for which primary schools stand.

Rewarding behaviour and achievements which reflect the school’s values.

We give certificates for effort, for sport, for helpful acts. Typically, we send a message by reserving the most praise for children who had to make a huge effort to make a small amount of progress.

Showing disapproval of inappropriate behaviour.

‘Telling off’ is a traditional part of assembly. It’s an opportunity to remind the community that some kinds of behaviour are unacceptable. We don’t usually name individuals in assembly, though. Public humiliation is not a preferred primary school value.

Showcasing performances and classroom work.

Some schools have a nominated ‘work assembly’ in which examples of children’s work are shown and discussed, perhaps a class at a time, perhaps by individuals from each class. If there’s no specific assembly, it’s still common practice to include examples of classroom work, and to allow children to demonstrate skills that they’ve learned. The emphasis on quality and high achievement is balanced by an acknowledgment of effort and progress by those whose starting point is further back.

Modelling preferred styles of discourse.

The assembly leader is saying, implicitly, all the time, to children, staff and visitors, ‘This is how we speak to children here. This is the tone of voice we use, these are the modes of address. We are encouraging, friendly, kind. We show when it’s right to be formal and when it’s a good moment to make a joke.’

Reinforcing the sense of family and community.

In assembly the leader talks of ‘our school,’ showing pride in achievement, and a sense of being a member of a special group of people. The leader wants children to feel that special sense of membership, but at the same time to show respect and understanding for the fact that the members of other schools feel the same way.

You can read parts two and three of this series here:

  • Part two – the assembly leader
  • Part three – preparation

Find out about the great assemblies in our Primary Assemblies File or click here to access our bank of FREE primary assemblies here.